In a Dark, Dark Wood

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In a Dark, Dark Wood

By:  Ruth Ware
Published: 
2016
# of pages: 
308
Challenges: 
R.I.P.

4stargreen

Goodreads description:

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room…. 

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

Review:  Now I’ve read all of the books Ruth Ware has published.  Her books are interesting and easy reads.  This book is on my R.I.P. Challenge list.  It wasn’t as creepy/suspenseful as I thought it would be based on the description, but it held my interest and was a fast read.

Nora receives an unexpected invitation to her ex-bestfriend’s bachelorette party (hen do in the U.K.).  She hasn’t seen Clare in 10 years since they were about 16, but she consults with a mutual friend who was also invited.  They decide they’ll both go even though neither really wants to attend.

Almost immediately upon arriving at the remote country house in the woods, things start to go downhill.  Nora wants to leave before the weekend has truly begun, but she’s prevented from doing so.  Trapped in the house with a mixed group of strangers and estranged former friends, she slowly realizes not everything that’s happening is a coincidence.

I wasn’t too attached to any of the characters.  I couldn’t really relate to many of Nora’s decisions.  I felt sorry that she was so tramatized by her past and concerned about impressing Clare both in the past and present.

This wasn’t the most amazing book I’ve ever read, but it was fun and easy.  I wouldn’t have minded a little more creepiness, but there was still some suspense and mystery.  I recommend it to those who enjoy the suspense/thriller genre.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Fun and well-paced mystery, so-so characters and plot.

The Haunting of Rookward House

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The Haunting of Rookward House

By:  Darcy Coates
Published:  2017
# of pages:  225
Challenges:  A to Z

4Stars

Goodreads description:

She’s always watching…
When Guy finds the deeds to a house in his mother’s attic, it seems like an incredible stroke of luck. Sure, the building hasn’t been inhabited in forty years and vines strangle the age-stained walls, but Guy is convinced he can clean it up and sell it. He’d be crazy to turn down free money. Right?

The house is hours from any other habitation, and Guy can’t get phone reception in the old building. He decides to camp there while he does repairs. Surely nothing too bad can happen in the space of a week.

But there’s a reason no one lives in Rookward House, and the dilapidated rooms aren’t as empty as they seem…

A deranged woman tormented a family in Rookward forty years before. Now her ghost clings to the building like rot. She’s bitter, obsessive, and jealous… and once Guy has moved into her house, she has no intention of ever letting him leave.

My opinion:  I received a Kindle from my dad for Christmas.  I’ve thought about getting one over the years, but overall I’m a large supporter of physical books made of ink and paper and didn’t want to “give in” to technology.  However, since my dad was so nice and thoughtful, I figured I would give the Kindle Fire a chance and I’m really enjoying it!  It came with a month of Kindle Unlimited and had some suggestions for books on the first page.  The Haunting of Rookward House was the first cover that caught my eye so I downloaded it just to try out the Kindle settings.  I didn’t expect to actually read the whole book, but I was hooked very quickly and ended up really enjoying this book.  So far, it’s one of my favorite Gothic/ghost stories and I’ve read quite a few over the years what with taking a Gothic literature class in college and then participating in the R.I.P. challenge every year.

The story is about a man named Guy who unexpectedly finds out his mother owns an old, isolated house a few hours away.  He’s living with his mom after some sort of tragedy and he’s going crazy living with her and being unemployed.  He decides to take on the project of renovating the old house to keep himself busy and hopefully sell so he and his mom can have enough money for a fresh start.

The house is so far away from civilization that he can barely find the driveway when he goes to check it out.  As you can imagine, things go downhill from there, but Guy handles it all in a realistic way, even after he starts having nightmares about the previous owners of the house.  Eventually he realizes what he’s experiencing is more than nightmares and creaky floors, but by then it’s too late.  The past and the present have collided and Guy is horrified to discover that he’s been caught in the middle.

One of the things I’m often disappointed with in horror/ghost stories/modern Gothic tales is that authors seem to feel that they need to go overboard in the descriptions of what’s supposed to scare the reader.  Sometimes less is more and I often find myself rolling my eyes while reading instead of shivering with fright or suspense.  Also, authors in these genres tend to use the supernatural as a convenient excuse to veer away from the story or explain something afterwards instead of naturally steering the story.

Thankfully, Darcy Coates didn’t do any of these things in The Haunting of Rookward House.  It was incredibly well written and I found myself caught up in the suspense and, at times, felt a chill while reading.  Guy is a complex character and it was interesting how his recent tragedy and personality traits blended with the past tragedy that occurred in the house.  I definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy Gothic, horror, ghost stories, and suspense.  It would be a great pick for the annual R.I.P. challenge!

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Better than average ghost story, I’m close to giving it 5 stars, but it’s not quite at the same level as my other 5 stars.

Top Ten Tuesday – Creepy Books

toptentuesdayA weekly meme by The Broke & The Bookish

It’s my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesday and it’s a Halloween freebie day.  So here’s my top 10 creepy books in no particular order:

  1. Rebecca  by: Daphne du Maurier
    594139This is a classic tale about a young woman who moves to a remote estate after marriage.  She soon becomes suspicious of the house’s occupants and starts to investigate.  This wasn’t super creepy, but I do remember feeling concern and suspense as the main character goes about her investigation.

  2. The Shining  by: Stephen King
    11588This is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read!  It wasn’t just the obvious scary parts (although those scared me), but I was also very creeped out by Jack’s mental state as he remembers the past and processes his present circumstances.  Remember the “Friends” episode where Joey tells Rachel to read The Shining? 🙂 

  3. Black-Eyed Susans  by: Julia Heaberlin
    23746004I read this mystery last year for the R.I.P. challenge, and it definitely grabbed my attention.  I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next and sympathize with the character who knew something wasn’t right, but couldn’t always explain or prove what was wrong.
     

  4. The Woman in Black  by: Susan Hill
    37034This is a great classic Gothic novel!  I haven’t seen the movie, but this book is a great story that grabs the reader’s imagination, but doesn’t go overboard and cause nightmares.
  5. The Historian  by: Elizabeth Kostova
    10692Once again, this isn’t incredibly creepy, but it’s very atmospheric and leaves a lasting impression on the reader.  The main character is on a search for Dracula so you can imagine that there’s some suspense to be found within the novel’s 700 pages.
  6. Frankenstein  by: Mary Shelley
    18490This novel is probably expected to be on a creepy book list, but I wouldn’t say it’s as scary as people who think about the typical Frankenstein’s monster think.  Not only is the idea of a “monster” on a quest for revenge a scary thought, but the concepts of creating life and the responsibility of that creation is disturbing.
  7. The Quick  by: Lauren Owen
    18050175I would like to read this book again.  It has some chilling and suspenseful moments as well as being an interesting story.  A woman searches for her missing brother in Victorian England and discovers mysterious and dangerous people in the process.
  8. Bird Box  by: Josh Malerman
    18498558Wow, this post apocalyptic story had some very suspenseful moments!  There were times where I couldn’t put the book down.  It was easy to feel scared and horrified along with the blindfolded character.
     

  9. House of Leaves  by: Mark Z. Danielewski
    337907I didn’t enjoy all of this story, but it sure was creepy!  Also, creepy things kept happening to me while reading this book and I was beginning to think the curse at the beginning of the book was real.
  10. Dracula  by: Bram Stoker
    17245Like the previous book on the list, I didn’t enjoy the whole book overall, but it also had some memorable creepy moments that have stuck with me over the years.  It’s a classic and, like Frankenstein, worth reading just because of how influential it has been on modern culture.

 

 

What’s a creepy book you’ve read?  I’m always looking for ideas for the annual R.I.P. challenge and I actually enjoy suspense any time of the year!

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

By:  Janet Fox
Published: 
2016
# of pages: 
388
Challenge: 
R.I.P.

3Stars

Goodreads description:

Something is not right at Rookskill Castle, a rundown Scottish manor shrouded in mystery. The castle is a temporary boarding school for children escaping the Blitz, but soon it’s clear there is something terribly wrong. There are clues hinting that a spy is in the house, and there are undeniable signs of a sinister magic. When the children in the castle’s temporary boarding school begin disappearing one by one, it’s a race against the clock for twelve-year-old Kat Bateson, her two younger siblings, and their new best friend.

My opinion:  This book’s title immediately intrigued me and is the reason why I added it to my TBR list last year!  I don’t typically read modern children’s literature, but I think it’s good to read some every once in awhile, especially since my oldest is 8 and will begin reading longer chapter books in the next couple of years.

This story follows a 12 year old girl named Kat who, along with her younger brother and sister, go to stay at a newly opened boarding school in Scotland to escape the Blitz of London in WWII.  The boarding school is located in an old keep owned by a distant relative of Kat’s family.  Kat has a practical and logical personality, but soon has a hard time understanding what exactly is happening in Rookskill Castle.  However, the safety of the students depends upon her figuring out what is going on.

I was pleased by the way the entire story was rounded out and came together.  I feel like a lot of children’s lit doesn’t always make sense and the “dots” don’t always connect.  Authors tend to jump around and even contradict the narrative in order to make the story move the way they want.  However, the sequence of events and the main character’s thought patterns were consistent in this book.  Of course, this is a children’s novel and it is still written as such.  I didn’t connect with the characters and wasn’t drawn into the story.  I don’t think the average adult reader would really love this book, but I think it would be a great read for kids.  It’s somewhat creepy, but not too suspenseful or complicated.

Why I gave this book 3/5 stars:  Well written and unique story, didn’t capture my attention as an adult.  I recommend for kids between the ages of 10 and 14.

This House is Haunted

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This House is Haunted
By:  John Boyne
Published: 
2013
# of pages: 
291
Challenge:
  R.I.P., Full House (European author)

4Stars

Goodreads description:

Written in Dickensian prose, This House Is Haunted is a striking homage to the classic nineteenth-century ghost story. Set in Norfolk in 1867, Eliza Caine responds to an ad for a governess position at Gaudlin Hall. When she arrives at the hall, shaken by an unsettling disturbance that occurred during her travels, she is greeted by the two children now in her care, Isabella and Eustace. There is no adult present to represent her mysterious employer, and the children offer no explanation. Later that night in her room, another terrifying experience further reinforces the sense that something is very wrong.

From the moment Eliza rises the following morning, her every step seems dogged by a malign presence that lives within Gaudlin’s walls. Eliza realizes that if she and the children are to survive its violent attentions, she must first uncover the hall’s long-buried secrets and confront the demons of its past. Clever, captivating, and witty, This House Is Haunted is pure entertainment with a catch.

My opinion:  I read this book in 2 days because it was an easy,  suspenseful story.  The story follows a young woman named Eliza as her world crumbles after her father’s death in the late 1800s in London.  Still reeling from loss, she responds to an advertisement for a governess position at an estate in a remote part of England.  She is immediately confused and on edge upon arriving at the house where two children are living…alone.

Eliza tries her hardest to find answers to her many questions in the following weeks.  The reader is right there with her, not only wondering what will happen next, but also what happened in the past.

I felt that this story “flowed” better than many other modern ghost stories/suspense/Gothic/horror books.  The story is told in first person narrative by Eliza, so the reader knows what she’s thinking and why she does what she does.  However, I do wish that her relationship with the children was better developed.  She’s apparently so attached to the children that she gives up her own safety to stay with them, but it’s confusing as to how she becomes so attached.  She doesn’t seem to spend much time with them and honestly doesn’t seem to have much of a relationship with them at all.

Other than that, I was intrigued and surprised throughout the novel and enjoyed it overall.  I recommend it to lovers of paranormal suspense, Gothic tales, and ghost stories.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Suspenseful read that kept my attention throughout.  I do wish the characters and their relationships were better developed.

The Family Plot

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The Family Plot
By:  Cherie Priest
Published:  2016
# of pages:  
365
Challenge:  R.I.P.

4Stars

Goodreads description:

Chuck Dutton built Music City Salvage with patience and expertise, stripping historic properties and reselling their bones. Inventory is running low, so he’s thrilled when Augusta Withrow appears in his office offering salvage rights to her entire property. This could be a gold mine, so he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project.

The crew finds a handful of surprises right away. Firstly, the place is in unexpectedly good shape. And then there’s the cemetery, about thirty fallen and overgrown graves dating to the early 1900s, Augusta insists that the cemetery is just a fake, a Halloween prank, so the city gives the go-ahead, the bulldozer revs up, and it turns up human remains. Augusta says she doesn’t know whose body it is or how many others might be present and refuses to answer any more questions. Then she stops answering the phone.

But Dahlia’s concerns about the corpse and Augusta’s disappearance are overshadowed when she begins to realize that she and her crew are not alone, and they’re not welcome at the Withrow estate. They have no idea how much danger they’re in, but they’re starting to get an idea. On the crew’s third night in the house, a storm shuts down the only road to the property. The power goes out. Cell signals are iffy. There’s nowhere to go and no one Dahlia can call for help, even if anyone would believe that she and her crew are being stalked by a murderous phantom. Something at the Withrow mansion is angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever. And it seems to be seeking permanent company.

My opinion:  This was a fun, creepy read.  I’ve read Boneshaker by Priest and enjoyed the unique story and characters (a mom was one of the main characters, super cool.)  This book sounded perfect for the R.I.P. challenge so I bought a copy since it wasn’t available at my local library.

The Family Plot follows the main character, Dahlia, and her co-workers Brad, Bobby, and Gabe.  Bobby and his son Gabe are also her relatives since she works for the family business her dad runs, Music City Salvage.  Dahlia and her small crew camp out at an abandoned and secluded mansion in Tennessee that they are salvaging.  It isn’t long before eerie things start happening to the crew.  What do you expect, especially when they stumble upon a cemetery on the property?

I appreciated Dahlia’s connection to the house.  It was interesting how her past weaves in with the future of the house.  At times Dahlia was someone I related to, at others I thought she was too accepting of the entire situation.  That was how the whole book went for me, at times I would empathize with the characters and then others I was thinking, “How can you people act like this? Shouldn’t you…”  But isn’t that how horror books/films are for so many people?

While the book had its flaws, overall the story was interesting and kept me hooked.  I always enjoy Gothic elements and haunted house stories and this is a pretty good one.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Interesting story, easy to read, I felt a little frustrated with the characters sometimes, a few times the plot felt a little underdeveloped.

Other reviews:

Have you read this book?  Let me know and I’d be happy to post a link.